Thursday, June 19, 2014

Book review: "Reason in a Dark Time"

I've wanted to do a review of Dale Jamieson's Reason in a Dark Time for a while. (Besides, it will make a change from the personal posts.) Subtitled "Why the struggle against climate change failed, and what it means for our future", this is not a feel-good story about international efforts to stabilize the climate.  Instead, Jamieson tells the story of the period from the Rio Earth Summit (1992) to the Copenhagen conference (2009) as a tragedy: a narrative that, starting with high hopes, has now, thanks to the flaws and mixed motives of the participants, ended by "locking in" a level of global warming above the threshold that they had originally decided they must avoid.   As a philosopher, Jamieson wants to ask two questions: What made this tragedy inevitable?, and What resources do we have to move forward from here?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Halfway mark

Perhaps I need a few more different meds...

We're approaching the half way point for my treatment and I'm beginning to notice some side effects.   Not that I don't have plenty of medications to reduce the side effects.  And medications to counter the side effects of those medications.  (I don't think I have yet advanced to the third order of medication-indirection.)

The most aggravating of these is sores in the mouth and throat (caused by radiation and chemotherapy both) - officially known as mucositis. I was told to expect this and warned, when we started out, that "eating will no longer be a pleasure - it will be a duty."  We got through the first couple of weeks pretty lightly in this regard, but over the weekend the sores started showing up and now they are getting quite difficult.  At least four of the meds you see in my picture are directly aimed at managing mucositis and as a result I can still eat, and even with some enjoyment.  (All the doctors today told me I should be less restrained with the narcotics than I have been - I have a "dose as needed" prescription with a wide range.  So I basically doubled the dose today which left me woozy but comfortable.)

Chemo is notorious for making you nauseous but I haven't experienced any of that, probably thanks to the anti-nausea meds (another two or three in the picture).  Unfortunately anti-nausea meds (and also narcotics) are notorious for making you constipated.  Hence the four or so anti-constipation meds in the picture.  Last week that got quite bad before we got it under control.  This week I have some more energetic preparations available with which to take, uh, pre-emptive action.

Okay, that was probably TMI.  The main story though is that though I am experiencing some predictable problems, I am still blessed with a high energy level (planning to head back to the climbing wall tomorrow), a good appetite, and a manageable side effect profile.  And with great friends and support.  Liane is back in State College this week and my friend and colleague James Sellers is looking after me here.  Thanks, James!


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

News from the Chemofront

Radiation machine
We're about 30 percent through the chemo/radiation regime here and I wanted to post an update on how things are going.

The first thing to say of course is that as far as success or failure in actually treating the disease is concerned, no-one can say what's happening.  We're not attacking a substantial tumor here which one might see shrinking: we are looking to eliminate invisible microscopic bits which might have been left behind even by the marvelously skilled surgery that I received in April.  So, no news (and let's hope that is good news).

So what I'm more focused on right now is the side effects of radiation (sores in the mouth, difficulty swallowing, stiffness of muscles) and chemotherapy (nausea, taste changes, sun sensitivity) and how well I am managing them.  And in that respect the news is good so far.  I have some sores starting, but I am still enjoying my food and actually gaining a little weight (I am under instruction to load up now because it may be harder later) and the pain is managed well by Dr Quon's drug regime.  And I have had no chemo-related nausea yet.  Thanks, Zofran!   (Even though you make me constipated.  In fact, pretty much all the meds seem to have that effect...)

Apart from "eat plenty and healthy" the other instruction I received was to keep exercising and that I've managed to do so far.  There is a gym with cardio and weights on the Hopkins campus - intended for staff, but long term patients like me can get access.  I've been there regularly and the other day was able to make it out to an Earthtreks climbing wall as well. So that seems good news.

And I am beyond blessed by the cherishing care of my wife Liane.  When I get confused or frightened or angry, her wisdom and love are like a refreshing drink of cold water on a broiling summer's day.  When we made those "in sickness and in health" vows back in 1986, we meant them: but somehow I hadn't really thought through what it would mean to be the person who receives the cherishing, the sick one, the needy one.  We so like to think of ourselves as strong, don't we?  Well, sometimes we're not.

For the future: I've had an easy start, and I've met a lot of people who are in a much worse place than I.  I expect the next couple of weeks will be harder than these last ones have been, so keep me in your thoughts and prayers (if you pray).  I so much appreciate all the messages of support that you've sent via Facebook or email or whatever.  They touch my heart.  Thanks a bunch!




Sunday, June 1, 2014

Another Adventure

Liane and I are off to Baltimore tomorrow for me to begin radiation and chemotherapy at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.   Treatment will be every day for several weeks, and we are privileged to be able to stay at the Hackerman-Patz apartments which are right next door and are intended for those who have come from far away to receive treatment at the Center.

I can't help thinking of old Bilbo Baggins: "I think I'm quite ready for another adventure".


I'm not altogether sure that I'm ready for this adventure, but, ready or not, here it comes.  I'll post a few updates to this blog.  I'm hoping to keep the regular material going too (right now I'm thinking about an analysis of the "Solar Roadways" video which many friends have reposted...)  Meanwhile, I find myself chewing on the words of the Heidelberg Catechism:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong — body and soul, in life and in death — to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.